Hannah is in her final year of a communication studies degree at Sheffield Hallam University. She took a gap year between A-levels and starting university. Through Projects Abroad she went to Ghana for three months. Most of her time was spent working in an orphanage. For the rest of the time she was working in a school: teaching, dancing, singing and generally keeping the children entertained.
What was your motivation in applying?
I was accepted for a course at another university that I didn’t want to do, so I decided to go volunteering. When I was 16 I had been to Zambia to work with Aids victims, so I knew a lot about the culture of Africa and decided I wanted to go back. Projects Abroad’s website was appealing and the company offered a diverse range of things to do.
What did the application process involve?
It was very straightforward: it could be done on the internet, or through filling out an application form. Initially, they want to know who you are, what you are interested in and where you would like to go. It was almost a tailor-made package: you could choose dates for flights that suit you.
What did you do?
I would wake at about 6am, then walk up the road to get public transport into the city with locals to the orphanage. My first role was to wash the three and four years olds and then take them into pre-school. While they were at pre-school I fed all the babies, changed and washed them. I then brought the children back from school and fed them lunch. The children were wonderful and so keen to communicate with us, even though they couldn’t talk. In the afternoon we would take the children to the beach or the pool, and buy them some bottled water or bananas. At the end of the day I would be exhausted and but I would still often go out for a few drinks.
How did you sell the experience on your CV?
It was an immense cultural experience. I was with children who had absolutely nothing but who were extremely content. Working with the children was incredible. In particular, when I had to help the children pass exams. It gave me a great sense of achievement and hopefully it will benefit them in some way in the future. After all, the better educated you are in Africa the better jobs you will get.
Did you enjoy it?
It was amazing. I don’t have the funds to go back yet, but I keep telling my friends I will take them and stay on the beaches. If you plan your time you can go travelling.
What did you learn?
Everyday was a new experience. I also realised how kind people are. You can forget there is a lot of goodness in people.
Working with children was incredible, but I have also made some amazing mates. Two and a half years on, we are still fantastically good friends.
At no point did I think I want to go home. But knowing what I know now I would have gone for longer. I can’t think of anything negative to say about the experience.
What advice to readers do you have?
By doing a placement, you come away a better person; it makes you learn a lot about yourself. I think it is important to learn about other cultures. I would say, 100 per cent, go for it and live like the locals. But take malaria tablets and get vaccinations before you go!